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Bush 'Pleased' Saddam, Top Leaders Are Facing Justice - 2004-07-01

President Bush says a court appearance by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is an important step forward for Iraqi justice.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says President Bush stopped outside the Oval Office, and watched a few minutes of television coverage of the former Iraqi leader's court appearance.

"The president is pleased that Saddam Hussein and his regime leaders are facing justice from the Iraqi people in an Iraqi court," the spokesman said.

In that court appearance, Saddam dismissed the proceedings as theater, and denounced President Bush as "the real criminal."

Mr. McClellan says the former Iraqi leader is going to be saying all sorts of things during this trial, and the White House is not going to respond.

He says President Bush is focused on helping 25 million Iraqis rebuild their country, and move toward democracy. In the case of Saddam, Mr. McClellan says, the former leader is facing a justice he denied the Iraqi people.

"Saddam Hussein's regime was responsible for grave atrocities against the Iraqi people. And this step today begins a process by which the Iraqi people can help bring closure to the dark chapter of their history," he said.

President Bush sent U.S. troops to oust Saddam in March of 2003. The former dictator, 67, was captured last December, hiding in a hole in the ground, not far from his birthplace.

He is facing seven preliminary charges, including killing religious figures and rival politicians, gassing Kurdish villagers in 1988 and invading Kuwait in 1990.